Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Law & Order SVU “A Misunderstanding” Recap & Review

Law & Order SVU “A Misunderstanding” (directed by Mariska Hargitay) could have been titled “A Miscommunication.” Nobody was communicating on the same wavelength in this episode. There wouldn’t have been any misunderstanding between the two teens, Abby and Chris, had they actually been talking with each other – and I don’t mean via text messages – before they headed to the school’s darkroom for a little "fun." (Schools still have darkrooms?) The episode made references to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but make no mistake, this episode’s story of two immature, hormone-fueled teens with toxic, feuding parents had little resemblance to Shakespeare. The "Romeo and Juliet exemption" also didn't apply, as the allegation was that Chris forced himself on Abby.   Abby and Chris were far from being in love; Abby may have been in lust,  and Chris only wanted to score to get his name immortalized on the “Cherry Pickers” wall of fame. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, there was no love here, or, at least it never got a chance.

The story felt unoriginal; I think SVU did it before. Of course, with the show in its 17th season, themes are bound to repeat. I could not engage with this story. Viewers saw what happened between the teens during the (long) opening, which drained the suspense from the investigation and trial.  In fact, there was no substantial initial investigation. It wasn’t until Counselor Rita Calhoun, who had crossed over to the “dark side” to take the case for the “victim” pro bono, suggested that Barba talk to others at the dance to get more to bolster his weak case. The case was a “he said/she said” (or “her parents say/his parents say”) because the SVU didn’t do their homework before confronting the parents of the alleged rapist, Chris. The only drama was watching Chris’ mother Ellen go off the rails with Benson and Abby at the courthouse rest room.

Had the maid not found the discarded dress, these two teens could have worked out their misunderstanding on their own and kept the crazed parents out of it.  Only when the parents got involved did this incident seem to spiral out of control.  This left the jury to sort it out and they probably got it right. Don't misunderstand me; rapists need to be punished.  But, like the jury concluded, it didn't appear that one had occurred.

Also in the long opening was a scene with Benson and Dr. Lindstrom, where Benson professes she is fine after her “Townhouse Incident” (last week’s episode). She wants Lindstrom to sign off on her ability to work. I am not sure I believe her, especially when she admits she can barely let Noah out of her sight and also admits to still having nightmares and flashbacks. She speaks of the “endless cycle of abuse” (which implies hopelessness), but then says SHE has hope so I guess that makes everything okay (sarcasm intended). Lindstrom must have given her the go ahead as she was back to work. But, my “BS” detector was registering a loud warning as Benson spoke. And why did the writers feel the need to make excuses for Joe’s and Roxie’s behavior in “Townhouse Incident” ? Are we supposed to feel sorry for them or give them a pass because they suffered abuse as children?   I think not.  Benson could have easily made her point about the endless cycle of abuse without citing that case, which, as far as I am concerned, closed on a perfect note at the end of that episode.

There were some preachy moments, the most obvious when Benson talks about needing new rules for sexual engagement, mentioning California passing affirmative consent. (The effectiveness and enforceability of California's affirmative consent law continues to be debated.)  Barba’s sarcastic answer to her - “we’ll see how that goes” – was perfect. Yet Benson goes on, showing her bias against boys, indicating that teenage boys, even in college, don’t know what behavior might constitute rape and the line needs to be made clearer.  Her comments would have carried more weight with me had she mentioned that teen girls need to be educated about the subject as well.   The consent issue regarding teen sex applies to BOTH sexes, and Benson, in her role as Lieutenant in Special Victims, needs to be more cognizant of this.

Rollins showed up in the squad room with baby Jesse (being played by her real-life son Ludo).  Her colleagues have plenty of ideas for her return to work and they have no problem debating them in front of her. This scene included one of two great Rita Calhoun zingers in this episode: her wonderfully unenthusiastic comment “Oh look a baby.” (My feelings exactly.)  Calhoun follows up later with a wisecrack to Buchanan about her working pro bono, and, seeing his girth, saying that not all lawyers have to worry about their next meal.

Some oddities:
In one scene, Barba and Calhoun speak with the Stewarts in their home. The last date card shown before this scene was January 15. The Stewarts still are displaying their Christmas tree, and the 15th is far past the date by which tradition says to take it down.

In the scene where Carisi is on the stand, he has just answered a question from Buchanan and even though Buchanan has not stated he is finished with his cross examination, Barba leaps up and redirects. Shouldn’t Barba wait until Buchanan states he is done before he asks a question of the witness? (If there is anyone out there who has insight on the proper procedure here, please feel free to comment.)

Benson, in a discussion with Dodds outside the courthouse, says Abby didn’t make this up and she is not a manipulative girl. I don’t know how Benson can make that assertion as she’s only known this girl a short time and only through the investigation. Benson showed what I think is an inappropriate bias for Abby. (Maybe Chris’ mother sensed this, which could have caused her to have that meltdown in the ladies rest room.)

This episode annoyed me more than it interested me.

Here is the recap:

Mariska Hargitay - Lieutenant Olivia Benson
Ice-T - Detective Odafin “Fin” Tutuola
Kelli Giddish - Detective Amanda Rollins
Raúl Esparza - ADA Rafael Barba
Peter Scanavino - Detective Dominick “Sonny” Carisi, Jr.

Guest stars:
Andy Karl – Sgt. Mike Dodds
Elizabeth Marvel - Counselor Rita Calhoun
Delaney Williams - Counselor John Buchanan
Charlie Ray - Abby Stewart
Sean Grandillo - Chris Roberts
Pamela J. Gray - Laura Stewart
Jonathan Walker - Andrew Stewart
Olivia Birkelund - Ellen Roberts
John Hickok - Dennis Roberts
Aida Turturro - Judge Felicia Catano
Bill Irwin - Dr. Peter Lindstrom
Sonia Manzano – Judge Gloria Pepitone
Daniel Covin – Will Moore
Zak Steiner – Jack Peters
Catherine Dylan - Daniella
Les J.M.Mau – Teacher
Lauren Noble – Carmen
Dan Murphy – Jury Foreperson

In Dr. Lindstrom’s office, Benson explains the events that happened in the “Townhouse Incident.” She adds they found that Joe – the ringleader – and his girlfriend were both serially abused as children. He had brain damage from beatings and drug use and this is an endless cycle of abuse. Lindstrom asks what would happen if she stopped, and Benson says she can’t, citing that Rollins is still out and she has a new Sergeant that is not up to speed. Lindstrom reminds her she said it was an endless cycle, but Benson insists she doesn’t feel that way, she has hope. She insists she is fine, she wasn’t shot, her injuries were powder burns. Lindstrom asks if there are no nightmares or flashbacks, and Benson admits she has both of those, that is nothing new. Lindstrom questions, “And Noah?” Benson replies, “I can barely let him out of my sight. He is all I can think about.” Lindstrom asks about being held at gunpoint, questioning if she has to go back and that no one but her can do this job, Benson states she came here because she is fine, she came here because she is ready, now she just needs him to sign off on that.

Elsewhere, Chris Roberts spots Abby Stewart in the hall at her locker. Abby talks with her friend Daniella about it.  Chris’s friends Will and Jack comment they’d hit that and if he doesn’t, they will. Later, in class while the teacher talks about the Montagues and the Capulets from Romeo and Juliet, talking fate vs. free will,  Abby gets a message from Chris and says to Daniella that Chris asked her to the dance. Later, they are both at Abby’s house getting ready for the dance and Abby’s parents take pictures. Abby gets a text from Chris, saying he can’t wait to see you and asks “RUH?” and Daniella says that is good, that means Chris is into her.

At the dance, Chris offers Abby a drink from a flask and she takes it. They kiss and he takes pictures of it. He asks if she wants to go downstairs and she agrees. They head to the darkroom and they begin to make out. She tells him to wait and slow down and later tells him not so hard. He says she is so hot and soon she get a pained look on her face.

When she gets back home, her parents ask how was the party but she races upstairs, saying it was fine but she is tired. In her room, she gets a text from Chris, saying he had a great time and then he’d see her on Monday. She replies “K”. She gets a new text from Daniella asking for “deets now” but Abby does not answer, laying down in bed, looking distressed.

At a later time in the SVU squad room, Benson and the detectives ogle over Rollins’ baby and Carisi tries to offer advice about coming back to work and then they ALL start discussing Rollins coming back to work. She asks them not to discuss her in front of her. Counselor Rita Calhoun rushes in and indifferently comments “Oh look a baby” and immediately asks Benson if she has a minute.

In Benson’s office, Calhoun explains she is representing a 15-year-old freshman, Abby Stewart, who is the victim. Benson is surprised Calhoun is working as an advocate, asking if this is penance for representing a serial killer. Calhoun asks if Benson is still holding that against her, and Benson firmly replies yes. Calhoun explains Abby was raped at a school dance almost a week ago, disclosure was not that late but when they went to the precinct, they were told there was no case. Benson states that is how precincts keep their rape stats low. Calhoun says she has known Abby since birth and she is not making this up but the boy is a schoolmate, Chris Roberts, 18. She was his date and went with him willingly to a make out room where they had consensual foreplay. Benson tells her that doesn’t matter and that Calhoun knows that. Calhoun sighs. Benson states that the late disclosure means no rape kit, and Calhoun admits no, but states the maid saw Abby’s dress was stained and showed it to Laura, Abby’s mom. Benson finishes that Laura questioned Abby – and Calhoun says that the story tumbled out. Calhoun explains that Abby is introverted and she was a virgin. She asks Benson if she will meet with them, and Benson says “of course” with some annoyance, slamming down something on her desk.

Later, at the home of Andrew and Laura Stewart with Calhoun present, Benson and Carisi interview the parents and Carisi explains what will happen next. When the issue of the dress arises, Carisi states they will send that to the lab. Benson says it will be easier to speak with Abby when the parents are not around, and Calhoun says the parents are aware, and so is Abby.

Benson speaks separately with Abby, and Calhoun is also there. Abby explains how she met up with Chris and says they texted. She was not slutty but a little flirty. Calhoun states they saved the texts and had told Abby not to have any further contact with Chris. Abby says she still sees him at school, and says she has only said hi to him.

Meanwhile, Carisi speaks with the parents. They state that when Abby came home at 11, Laura knew something was wrong as they always talk but Abby said she was tired. Laura said her housekeeper Pilar found the dress on the trash and when Abby came home she asked her about it. Abby said she had sex and she didn’t want to, she was raped. Andrew said they went straight to the police that night. Laura thinks something did happen.

Abby continues to tell Benson what happened, explaining how they got to the darkroom, saying it is where people go to see what develops. At first they were just making out and when he put her hand under her dress, she got nervous. She told him not to go down there, to slow down. He did not, he wasn’t listening. He pushed her up against the wall and she felt him get excited. He put his finger in her and she told him to wait. He stopped, but then he tried to put his penis inside her. She didn’t say no, she couldn’t move or speak, it was like she was paralyzed. Benson and Calhoun assure her that is normal. Abby adds it wasn’t getting in, but he kept saying she was hot. Then he came. She doesn’t understand why Chris would do that to her.

At the home of Ellen and Dennis Roberts on Friday, January 15, Fin and Dodds speak with Chris, his parents present, who says he and Abby are friends. When the detectives to ask Chris to explain what happened, the parents get testy but after prompting from Fin, Dennis tells Chris to go on. Chris says he and Abby were dancing and they made out a little, and she was into it. He asks if she wanted to go to the darkroom, which is code for…he never says and his parents glare at him. Chris says they started fooling around, and when Ellen asks if this girl is making a rape allegation, Dodds says she is saying something happened that she didn’t want to happen. Chris looks shocked and says that is so not true, they didn’t even have sex. When Fin asks for a DNA sample, Dennis stands up and asks if they have a warrant, Fin pulls one out and says yes they do. Ellen is shocked and Dennis says they should have told them, adding he will be contacting a lawyer. But Chris says nothing happened, and Laura says she knows how these things go, how girls are. When Dodds says they are just investigating, Laura says before their daughter went to college she would overhear her friends talking saying they would accuse a boy of rape if they didn’t call them back. Dodds reminds them they have the warrant for Chris’ DNA and they can collect it her or they can take him down to the station, it’s there call. Chris looks stunned.

Back at SVU, Benson asks Dodds and Fin what is their take, and they say Chris is privileged but not arrogant, and he has no record, has straight As and is waiting on an early decision from Stanford. Dodds said Chris seems genuinely surprised by the allegations. Benson comments it sounds like a teenage he said/she said. Dodds think it is more like her parents say/his parents say. Chris is their only son, the golden boy. Benson gets a message as Carisi comments about the father of a teenage, virginal daughter, recalling his own father with his sisters: if a guy so much as looked at one of them it was rape. Benson looks at the message and asked that Chris put himself in the darkroom with Abby and Fin confirms he does but he swore nothing else happened beyond some kissing and touching. Benson states that he is lying about that, the lab confirms the semen stain on Abby’s dress is a match to Chris. Dodds says that is proof of contact, not rape or even intercourse. Carisi says this might be, saying Chris posted photos of the two of them on his Instagram account with the hashtag “picked that cherry”, adding “sweet”. showing the photos of him kissing Abby. Benson says, “Picked that cherry? Really?” Fin comments that doesn’t mean it happened, they lie all the time. Dodds observes that the pictures don’t look like Abby is complaining. Benson tells them to bring them in.

Later in SVU, Calhoun talks with Benson about the DNA match and assumes that they will arrest Chris, and when Benson asks where did she hear that, Calhoun says she didn’t, Benson just confirmed it. Benson reminds Calhoun she does not have an all-access pass here, Carisi tells Benson Barba is in her office. She enters with Calhoun and Barba asks if the boy has lawyered up already. She explains she is there for the victim. Barba wisecracks that she takes money from both sides, adding “Don’t ever change.” He reminds Calhoun she knows she is not privy to the boy’s interview, and Benson answers she does and she is leaving. As Calhoun moves to leave, Counselor Buchanan arrives, and Barba comments dryly that now it’s a party. Buchanan tells Calhoun as fun as it would be to get the band back together, the Roberts have retained only him this time and they will be up in a bit. Calhoun explains she is here representing the Stewarts. He comments that victim advocacy can’t be well. She says blankly that it is pro bono, and looking and his ample size, states not all of them (lawyers) have to worry about their next meal. Barba comments “Getting personal. That’s promising.” Benson states that Calhoun was just leaving, and she explains she will be right down the block. She exits. Buchanan says this won’t take long. He tells Barba that in 20 minutes Barba will realize he has no case. Benson and Barba look at each other.

Fin and Dodds speak with Buchanan in the interrogation room with Chris and his parents there. Buchanan speaks for Chris and while Buchanan talks, Chris says that Abby still thinks they are friends, showing him a text he got from her. Dodds looks at the texts where Abby says she doesn’t know why this is happening, she likes him and she hopes he is not mad at her. Carisi is observing with Benson and Barba and he says this is not good. He asks Barba is he is right, and Barba says like a broken clock. As Barba moves to leave, Benson says Abby is an imperfect victim. He tells her to call her friend Calhoun and he leaves. Benson looks off and says, "my friend.”

Later, as Buchanan leaves the SVU with Chris, Ellen and Dennis, they are happy about the text. Buchanan tells Barba he assumes this is the last they will hear of this, and Barba says they will be in touch. Barba walks over to Calhoun and says they have a problem. She says they don’t, she’s already spoken with Abby and this isn’t anything they haven’t seen before. Barba asks “Really?” adding that if she was that boy’s defense attorney she would tear her to shreds. She tells him to put it into context; Abby is insecure and non-confrontational and if she were more assertive they might not even be here. Barba says she was assertive enough to text him, and Calhoun stresses she was answering his texts every time. She adds there is no social protocol with teenagers – do you unfriend, do you block – they don’t think things through. Barba thinks Buchanan will crucify Abby in front of a jury. Calhoun states that this boy lured Abby into the school’s darkroom and boasted on the internet that they had sex and he lied to the police. Barba asks what she wants him to do, and she replies that there were a hundred kids at that dance, asking if they talked to any of them.

Carisi  speaks with Daniella who explains everyone knows the darkroom is where you go to have sex and once you go down there you can’t change your mind. Carisi counters that actually you CAN at any time. Daniella says Abby is obsessed with Chris and suggest Abby could be mad because Chris didn’t ask her out again.

Meanwhile, Dodds and Fin question Will Moore and Jack Peters. Jack tells Fin he doesn’t know anything and Dodds brings up the age differences. Fin threatens to call Notre Dame as Jack is waiting for a football scholarship, and Jack folds, saying Chris needed a name on his list. He says it is a secret society for seniors, “Nos Messis Cerasa” - the Cherry Pickers club.

Later at the school, with Carisi, Fin, and Dodds, Jack explains there is a competition to see how many virgins you can bang and everyone had a name on the list but Chris. He takes a large portrait off a wall and shows the names written on the wall behind it and the girls involved. The list goes back years. He doesn’t know the ages of the girls. Chris only has Abby listed and Jack says it is a good thing he didn’t get shut out as that wall is there forever.

Back at SVU, Benson looks at a photo of the Cherry Pickers' wall with Barba. Carisi worries Barba will use the names and Barba says it goes to motive. Carisi worries it outs a lot of teenagers, mostly the girls. Dodds brings up the fact they’ve already posted darkroom selfies and comments they are dealing with hormone flooded teenagers. Fin is with Dodds and doesn’t think Chris thought anything was wrong until they showed up at his house. Benson states firmly that Chris lied to their faces, Dodds reminds them so did Abby about the texts. Benson says she thinks the kid is good for it but going to trial with where they are now, she thinks Barba should sit down with both families and hammer out a plea. Barba states he will see what he can do.

Later, at their home, Barba speaks with the Stewarts about a plea for Chris for misdemeanor sexual misconduct. The parents are not happy and Barba discounts Calhoun’s alternatives. As Barba tells them this will get Chris on the sex offender registry, Abby overhears the discussion and she enters, saying her life is over, everyone is laughing at her. She said her friends and Chris’ friends hate her and she wishes she never said anything. She runs off. Laura storms over to Barba and glares at him, and he says he is sorry, this is all he can do. Calhoun says they will take sexual misconduct as long as Chris will go on the registry.

Later, at the New York County DA's office, Barba speaks with Chris and his parents and Buchanan. They balk at the registry. Buchanan says they will consider endangering the welfare of a child, but Barba says he has to go on the registry. Buchanan asks if Benson and Calhoun prepared that for him, arguing they all know what this was – a misunderstanding between two sexually inexperienced teenagers. Barba brings up Abby’s age and Buchanan mentions a Romeo and Juliet exemption. Barba says not if Chris forced her, and Buchanan says that is Abby’s story. Barba states this train is leaving the station; he has offered no prison time; if they say no and Chris is convicted, he is looking at prison time. Barba asks Chris if this is what he wants, and when Chris worries it will be on the news, Barba explains what will happen if he is arrested and charged and his name made public Dennis tells Barba not to threaten his son, Abby is slandering him and they will fight this. Chris asks what if he just says sorry to Abby and her family, but his own parents jump in and tell him absolutely not. They leave and Buchanan says they are calling his bluff; if he wants to take this to trial, he will regret it.

At a later date, Chris is arraigned and Buchanan pleads not guilty. Barba and Buchanan argue bail and the judge orders $500,000 bail and he must surrender his passport.

Later, Benson is walking to the court and Dodds catches up with her. She is glad he made it, adding it is helpful for the victims to see them in the gallery. He apologizes for bringing up the victim in front of everybody and Benson waves him off, telling him it is not a problem. He thinks both teenagers are good kids and doesn’t think either of them know what happened in that darkroom, asking, “Do we?” Benson replies that he may not realize what he did was a sexual assault, but Abby didn’t make this up, she is not a manipulative girl. Dodds counters that Chris is not a predator; this is a high school make-out session gone bad, they shouldn't be going to trial. Benson replies that she doesn’t disagree with him, it is not their call. Dodds comments it wasn’t theirs either, the whole thing is a runaway train. Buchanan walks by and says good morning, the Roberts family with him. Chris looks like his appearance has been altered – hair and glasses – to make him look more innocent. Dodds comments to Benson they made Chris look like Harry Potter. Benson states they’ve seen that before, calling it the nerd defense.

In Supreme Court part 13 on Monday, January 18, Barba questions Benson, on the stand, about the texts from Chris, including those sent while he was being questioned. She says this type of communication between assailant and victim is common. She explains the imperfect judgment of teenagers, adding a young, naïve girl attending the same school as her rapist would be scared of causing conflict or being stigmatized by her peers. Girls like Abby who are shy like Abby have trouble speaking up for themselves and teenage predators often prey on less assertive victims. Barba asks how unusual is it that Abby did not file a report immediately afterwards, and she says it is not, it happens with many victims. Under cross, Buchanan tries to use and twist Benson’s own testimony to discredit her. When he states she testified a more assertive girl might not have been targeted, he says it sounds like she is blaming the victim. She insists she is not, adding it is always the rapist’s fault. Buchanan asks, with dripping sarcasm, if there is nothing the accuser can do to contribute to the situation - if she is sexting, willing to go to private areas and enthusiastically engage in foreplay – none of this could possibly lead on a young, inexperienced teenage boy; Barba objects, saying this is speculation. Buchanan says it is more like common sense, but then withdraws the comment. Barba stares forward.

Later, Carisi testifies about Chris Roberts being part of the Cherry Pickers club and that the club’s purpose of deflowering students and putting the name on the wall. Chris only had Abby’s name on the wall while others had more. Carisi states Chris was being taunted by the others to step up. When Barba states by assaulting Abby that in the eyes of his peers, Chris was no longer a loser, Buchanan objects. Barba rephrases it, asking if Chris wrote Abby’s name on the wall as someone whose cherry he had picked that night, Carisi states yes. He also states that Chris bragged on social media.

Under cross, Buchanan brings up that Carisi said Chris was pressured to claim he had scored, there is a long pause, and Carisi must admit yes. Barba jumps up to redirect – even though Buchanan had not stated he was finished – and asks if during the initial interview with Chris did Chris lie to him. Carisi testifies yes, he flat out denied having any sexual contact with Abby and only when they confronted him with the DNA evidence did he admit the truth. Buchanan objects as this is prejudicial, adding that Chris has always maintained that all contact was mutual and consensual. Barba glares at him, saying except when he was lying about it. The judge tells them to spare her the grandstanding, and she overrules the objection. She suggest they both calm down and they will resume after lunch. Barba adds at which time, he will be calling the next witness: Abby Stewart.

During the break, Benson is in the ladies rest room with Calhoun and Abby, and Calhoun is reminding Abby no makeup, giving her something to use to wipe it off. Abby comments she will look like a little girl, and Calhoun says they are making Chris look like a saint, she can’t look like a sinner. The door creaks open and Chris’ mother enters, When Benson suggests she give them a minute, Ellen ignores it and moves to wash her hands. But then Ellen asks Abby if they told her that Stanford requested Chris withdraw his application? Calhoun says this isn’t the time, and moves to the door. Ellen grabs Abby and asks her if she understands she is ruining her son’s life. Abby walks away and Benson tells Ellen she needs to stop talking. Ellen says to Benson that a woman cop like her always takes the girl’s side and when Benson states that is not what is happening here, Ellen counters that she’s seen it; the sweet little girl becomes the victim and the boy is made out to be a brute. Benson tries to walk away but Ellen screams to Benson, asking if she knows why that is? As Benson races out the door, Ellen follows her, yelling directly into Abby face it’s because teenage girls are better liars. As Ellen walks off, Abby looks stunned.

Later, Abby is on the stand and testifies about what happened. She was okay with the dancing and the kissing, but explains how Chris got aggressive, to which she did not agree. She told Chris to slow down, she didn’t want him to touch her down there. She explains this did not stop him; he pushed up against her, and tried to put his penis inside her. She said no again but he kept rubbing up against her and came on her dress, She did not want this; he was hurting her. She never had sex with anyone before but she knew that is not how she wanted it to be. She didn’t say anything that night, she was humiliated, too afraid to tell anyone. She eventually told her mom the truth and they went to the police and told them she had been raped.

Under cross, Buchanan gets her to admit she had a crush on crush on Chris and was flattered when he texted her. She thought he was nice. She was aware of the darkroom but thought they were just going to kiss. He brings up the Instagram photos that Chris took and says this was her first real date and she wanted Chris to like her, and she admits she was nervous. Buchanan brings up it was loud because of the music – she admits it was – and Buchanan asks if, as there was a lot going on, maybe she was overwhelmed and was unsure about what she wanted and that is why she did not say no. She admits she never exactly said no but she told him not to go down there. He asks where, on the floor? She says that is not what she meant, she was not into it. Buchanan asks into what? She replies sex. Buchanan asks if she said the word sex, and she admits no, she wasn’t into having sex, he knew that. Buchanan asks how could he know that, he was nervous too, in a loud, dark room, asking if she thought Chris could read him mind. Barba objects and Buchanan withdraws the comment. Buchanan states they were texting and talking at school and she didn’t even think she had be raped for four days and Chris had no idea that she had a bad evening until the police arrived at his door. Barba objects and the judge instructs Buchanan to ask a question. Buchanan says he is just trying to understand and the jury are, how did we get here? Abby says she knew she didn’t want to have that happen to her. Buchanan asks if Chris knew, and Abby states she thinks he did. Buchanan says she thinks, she thinks she was raped, she thinks she told him to stop, asking if it is possible she went along with it and regretted it later. Barba again objects, and Buchanan withdraws the question. Abby can’t get an answer out of her mouth, and Buchanan ends the questioning as she cries on the stand.

Outside the courtroom, Abby tells her parents she doesn’t know what happened, and Barba, with Calhoun, says testifying is never easy. Her father says Barba could have protected her more, and Calhoun says the worst is over. But Abby says it is not; Chris is going to testify and tell everyone lies about her. Calhoun says Barba won’t let him get away with that. Calhoun walks off with Abby and her parents as Barba stands alone, looking on.

Later, on the stand, Chris explains they were in the darkroom and they were kissing. He kept asking if everything he was doing was okay and she did not say no. he put his fingers insider her and couldn’t have done anything else even if they both wanted to as he finished early. He did not have sex with Abby. When he got home, he felt that the evening went good; he texted her and she texted him back. If she was upset, he couldn’t tell. He admits that he lied to the police when he said they hadn’t touched, they had touched under their clothes but they didn’t have sex. He lied to his friends; he told them he had sex with Abby from the pressure to get a name on the wall. It wasn’t true. Looking at the jury, he says the club is disrespectful to girls and him playing into that was stupid. He was afraid of being ridiculed. He risks that by testifying but adds he owes it to his family to explain his behavior and to Abby’s family too. He states that if he upset her he is sorry but he wishes this had gone differently. He says, sounding rehearsed, that he knows now that mixing dating and alcohol is a recipe for disaster, and that clear communication is very important.

Under cross, Barba states that Chris lied to the police and to his friends, asking if that is his story. Chris admits yes, and adds he is not proud of it. Barba asks that he did so because his friends were taunting him that he hadn’t scored. When Chris says he wouldn’t put it that way, Barba asks if Chris would call it making love – or cherry picking? Buchanan objects, and when Barba states it is the name of the club, the judge overrules Buchanan. Chris says it doesn’t matter what they call it, he didn’t do anything Abby didn’t want. As Benson sits in the gallery shaking her head, Barba comments that Abby went to the police and testified on the stand and was publicly humiliated and ostracized by her friends for something she made up? Chris replies no, she probably thinks she was raped. Barba asks what does that tell you? Chris says Abby thinks that now, but she did want it at the time? When Barba asks how could he be sure of what she was thinking or what she wanted, Buchanan leaps up and objects, accusing Barba of badgering. The judge orders the witness to answer. Chris says he doesn’t know if he can be sure, but she didn’t say no. Barba questions that she didn’t say it or he didn’t hear it? Chris says he doesn’t know, and Barba questions if he ever asked her. He said no. Barba challenges if Chris ever heard a yes - then answers himself, saying no, because Chris wasn’t listening to her at all. He adds Chris’ only concern was getting what he wanted, scoring and making it up onto that wall. Barba walks right up to Chris and stares him in the face, telling him congratulations, he made it. Chris looks stunned as Benson and Calhoun watch from the gallery. Barba concludes his cross examination. Buchanan looks back to Chris’s parents, who are sitting in the gallery.

Later. Benson enters Barba’s office and says she just wanted to thank him, adding that was a good cross, and no matter what the jury decides, he did his job. He asks, “Did I?” He comments that it always was a murky case, and Benson says that is exactly the kind they need to be fighting. She adds that the world is changing, and we need new rules. Barba asks if the rules are for sexual engagement for teenagers, and Benson replies yes, explaining that California just passed affirmative consent. Barba states dry that “we’ll see how that goes.” Benson comments that something needs to change; the problem is that teenage boys even in college don’t know what behavior might constitute rape; they need to make the lines clearer. The door opens and Barba’s assistant informs them that the jury is in. Benson tells Barba “here we go” and they move to the door.

In Supreme Court part 13 on Wednesday, January 20, the verdict is read: not guilty on the felony count of attempted rape, not guilty on the misdemeanor count of forcible touching, and guilty on the misdemeanor account of sexual misconduct in the first degree. As the judge adjourns. Chris’s father says loudly to Abby and her family that he hopes they are happy for what they did to his son. Barba quickly walks out and Buchanan moves to stop Chris from advancing toward the family. Abby’s mother tells him not to talk to Abby or even look at her. Abby tells Chris she is sorry and Chris’ mother Ellen asks NOW she is sorry? She moves to grab Abby and her parents try to move Abby away. Benson tells them that now is not the time and Calhoun tells Abby she has nothing to apologize for. Ellen gets in Andrew’s face and says they can’t tell her Abby didn’t know what she was getting in to when she walked into that room. Andrew shouts back that they can all lie to themselves as much as they want, they know what their son is. Benson and Carisi try to hurry him out of the room. Andrew says now Chris is on the registry and everyone will know. Dennis looks like he is going to fight and screams now they know what their daughter is. Carisi keeps Andrew away and Benson puts out her arms, shouting “Enough! Enough!” Chris looks back at Abby and she back at Chris, both with sad expressions. As they take Chris off, Abby calls his name, but her mother pulls her out of the room. Buchanan walks off with Chris and the court officer. Benson walks through the courtroom doors as we fade to black.

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Ana Andrade said...

This episode was just boring and annoying. I'm a person that can't stand miscommunication, so the case really got on my nerves.

Abby said...

Ok I share the same first name as the victim. It was weird hearing my name said over and over again. Hearing Rafael say my name was awesome.

The best part for me was Rafael. He was awesome in this episode.

Lannes said...

I thought that the episode worked up to a point. A twist was missing. When Abby's friend commented that she was obsessed with Chris, I expected a reveal at the eleventh hour that she really was lying. Like because she didn't want her parents to know that she was no longer a virgin and was using the criminal proceedings to keep Chris tied to her. THAT would have shook Benson to her core, and I would have even been okay with a final scene where she was back in therapy claiming that she didn't know what to hope for anymore. Still, lots of Barba, and given the drought, I'll take it!

Marguerite Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marguerite Scott said...

Hi, I've enjoyed all of the SVU episodes this season! "Transgender Bridge" was heartrenching because it too focused on altering the lives of 2 young people. The cast was outstanding!

"A Misunderstanding" boasted a great cast directed by Mariska Hargitay who is so talented! It was really sad because this episode like "Transgender Bridge" focused on peer pressure as well and shows how young lives can be destroyed by not truly placing priority on others'feelings!

Anonymous said...

This episode was much better than last weeks and the week before.
But it was mild in writing. It reminded me of another episode but different show, (The Closer) entitled "Cherry Bomb", which was much better written IMO.

This was clearly a show about peer pressure and fitting in. Maybe SVU is trying to connect with a younger audience. Still the message is clear no means no. Maybe the goal was to get teens and parents talking, as clearly communication is the best prevention of incidents like this.

I think the outcome was appropriate as it would only be a misdemeanor for Chris.

Laurie Fanat said...

This was a dull episode. Don’t beat on me Mariska fans but I think they give her episodes with little action in them because they are easier to direct. This story felt old, how many times has SVU done this same story? It must be hard to sit in a writers room and try to come up with something new, but I feel like they are not even trying.

Showing the encounter with the two teens early in the episode was a HUGE mistake. If they would have cut the scene when they went into the darkroom and let the evidence come out in the investigation and trial it would have been more dramatic. We would have something to guess about. But I didn’t see rape; I saw two kids who were willing to go at it for their own reasons. Both kids should have paid a price here and I didn’t see that happen.

That mom, Ellen, was a piece of work. I sense some repressed anger here. That would have been something more interesting to dig into.

Not a lot of comments this week which tells me no body cared after watching it.

Adam said...

Others have commented on the lack of drama. I think the drama here was the absurd, runaway legal system ruining a boy's life. And the legal system is just made up of people. Ultimately, it's about the adults who feel like they get to control everything and dictate all the rules. Some teenagers had a misunderstanding, and it would have been nothing except that all the big angry adults step in and ruin everyone's life.

Cappi said...

I enjoyed this episode a lot unlike many of you. Having Barba back makes all of the stuff the rest of you complain about unimportant to me. Maybe if SVU doesn't get renewed you all will think twice about your negative comments.

ladybug81 said...

Finally was able to watch the episode. I'll be honest the promo really didn't grab me so I wasn't sure how I'd feel about it. I found it kinda boring until right up at the end. In ways it had the feel of an early years SVU episode, but I just couldn't get into it. I think one mistake was in the way it was written. I wish we hadn't seen what happened in the dark room so it would've left us guessing as to what did happen, maybe show what happened closer to the end of the episode in a flashback. I did like how some of the shots were set up so hats off to Mariska on her directing.

I liked Dodds Jr a little more in this episode. I think he was saying what everyone was thinking. Lannes I have to agree with you about the twist. We have seen cases on the show where the victim was lying but it rarely happens. While I think what they were trying to address in the episode is important it was missing a twist that we usually have. It rarely happens but I love those moments where Olivia is wrong and it shocks her that she didn't see it. Don't get me wrong, I love Olivia, but we're all human and we do get preconceived ideas in our head about people and situations. Chris I also agree with you a little on the fact that Benson does sometimes seem biased towards the boys in cases. While 9 times out of 10 they are the perp, it doesn't always mean they're guilty. Overall I think they were trying to address an important subject, I just don't think it was written as well as it could've been. In ways I blame the parents as much as the kids. Parents need to talk to their children about these situations. While I think he was wrong, in a way I felt sorry for Chris. He was being pressured by friends, and I doubt his parents had really talked to him about these types of situations. The fact that there was a hit song titled 'Blurred Lines' goes to show many don't understand the meaning of yes and no in sexual situations.

This might just be me but did anyone else feel like there's maybe a little something going on between Benson and Barba? I know it was mentioned after Townhouse Incident and the way he seemed to be a little more concerned than usual about her going missing. When she came to his office at the end of the episode it was something in her voice, I can't put my finger on it. Like she spoke a little softer, a little something there, compared to the way she normally speaks to him. Maybe it's just my imagination.

m gomes said...

one thing i thought was out of character and also annoyed me, was Counselor Rita Calhoun throwing Barba under the bus and pressuring him sayng things like
"Barba won’t let him get away with that".

also i agree with Barba at the beginning, if it had been anyone else rita would be defendind the accused, and try to discredit SVU, but when the case hits close to home, she not only requests their hel but practically bullies them into investigate

Theuresamaven said...

Transgender, the second episode of this season, was pulled from Video on Demand roughly two days after it aired, however episodes one through six stayed for more than a month. Does anyone know why the Transgender episode was pulled?

Chris Zimmer said...

@Theuresamaven - I have no clue. Is it a specific VOD through a specific carrier or the NBC site?

Theuresamaven said...

My carrier is RCN, and I was curious, so I called and asked about it. RCN said that anything that is either submitted or deleted is completely NBC's call. This isn't the first time that SVU episodes have disappeared from VOD. The missing episode that stands out most is the "Beast's Obsession," William Lewis episode 20 of season 15, which also disappeared from VOD after a couple of days, and is skipped altogether when shown on USA, which is why I now make it a point to try and see SVU's first runs, just to make sure that I see it before it disappears.

And speaking of oddities, it is Janurary 30th, and I still have my (artificial) Christmas tree up, undecorated except for battery operated lights, which is not all that unusual in New York. My family celebrates (Russian) Orthodox Christmas, what Catholics call Three Kings Day, on Janurary 6th, so my tree is up from Thanksgiving, and should be down around the 13th of Janurary, and I might take it down next month, but it gives such a nice pleasant glow that I may not. We also celebrate Christmas in July, which dates back to my childhood, and stays around for a week. Some of my neighbors just threw out their live trees just before last Saturday's snow. My friend's mother, a teacher, used to keep a live tree on her terrace until March, when it was cut up to be used as art projects by her students. My point is that in these days and times, perhaps one should not label something as odd, just because one does not do the same thing as everyone else.

Chris Zimmer said...

@Theuresamaven - thanks for the insight. I guess what is odd in some parts of the U.S. may not be in others. I had a former work colleague who was Russian Orthodox and theirs was always down shortly after the 6th. I used the generic word "oddities" to describe that whole section of comments, maybe the one on the tree I could have labeled it as unusual, or not the norm, based on my experiences here in the Midwest.

Anonymous said...

@Theuresamaven - "Beast's Obsession", is being aired on USA this Sunday, Feb. 7th, 4 pm. :)

BensonFan said...

In the 17 years (omg!), I've been watching SVU (in all fairness I don't think I started watching right when it first aired), I don't think I've ever turned off an episode mid-way through because I was bored. Until now.

I don't know why, but I hate the he said/she said episodes. And this episode could have been a five minute story rather than a 43 minute one.

Paulina Evangelina Armand said...

I have already had to talk to my kids about this situation, and they know all parties will be at our house. What were these parents thinking? Inappropriately short dresses, no supervision, no home training for the kids, no morals! My kids already think that stuff is rightly stupid. And they are better than making bad choices. I ask them how they want to be seen by others, as leaders or followers. They already use positive peer pressure on their friends. It's called character. We had it before the sexual "revolution" or "revoltion"... no common sense anymore. Don't put yourself as an adult, or allow your kids to be in possibly dangerous or compromising situations. Smh

Denise Blake said...

You ask, "Do schools still have dark rooms?" It's a euphemism for an out of the way place. One of the kids says "As in "lets go to a dark room and see what develops".

Jennifer Carrapeiro said...

This story was based on an actual case that took place at St. Paul's in New Hampshire between Owen Labrie and Chessy Prout... (All their "cases" are based on real stories and events even though the beginning of their episodes say they are not.) Look it up, even the real guy looks like Harry Potter... coincidence? i think not....